A motorist assist volunteer was struck and killed Thursday on Kennedy Freeway just north of the Sarpy County line.
John Holcomb, 70, had stepped into the southbound lanes to remove tire debris when he was struck by a Honda Civic, according to Omaha police.
The impact threw Holcomb into a ditch, and he died at the scene, police said. The crash occurred about 1:30 p.m.
“Our hearts go out to John’s family and his friends, at this very hour, they are mourning his loss,” Colonel John Bolduc, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, said at a 4:30 p.m. press conference at patrol offices in Omaha.
Holcomb began volunteering with the Metro Area Motorist Assist program in 2014, according to the patrol. He logged thousands of miles on Omaha area roadways and assisted countless motorists, the agency said in a statement. Typically, volunteers’ tasks include helping stranded motorists with gas or changing a tire and clearing debris from the roadway.
Tim Weander, supervisor of the Nebraska Department of Transportation District for Omaha, said this was the first time in his memory that a motorist assist volunteer had been killed. The program began in 1998 and about 70 people have volunteered. The dangers of working along roadways has long been apparent to employees and volunteers alike, he said.
“We understand the speeds involved, we understand the safety aspect of the highway system because we deal with it everyday,” Weander said. “And John was out there helping us, helping you, clear the roads.”
The motorist assist program is coordinated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency.
Volunteers in the program undergo training and work in pairs. Thursday was no different, authorities said.
The driver of the Honda was Katie Brogan, 38, of Omaha, according to police. Brogan was uninjured.
The other volunteer also was uninjured.
Holcomb’s death was a call to drivers to take care when they see someone working alongside the road, authorities said.
“These guys volunteer their time to help stranded motorists day in and day out,” the State Patrol tweeted Thursday afternoon. “Remember to always move over a lane and slow your speeds for these selfless volunteers.”